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May is for Moms, Memories, and Moving Forward

By Lori Welch Brown

May is for Moms, Memories, and Moving Forward

May is a bittersweet month for me.  All those ads for finding that perfect Mother’s Day gift make me sad.  It’s been 15 years since I’ve had the opportunity to splurge on a pair of earrings for Mom.  I miss her every single day, but Mother’s Day is especially rough.  I know I’m not alone in the ‘missing mom’ club.  If you’re blessed to still have your mom, please give her a call or a hug if you can. 

Mom left behind many great memories though, many of them around Memorial Day.  She didn’t love to entertain, but she loved to have all of her children home and she used Memorial Day as a good excuse to gather her children and grandchildren around the table for a barbecue.  The choice of meat may have varied but two things were always on the table—her famous potato salad and her sweet tea.  She’s been gone since 2006, and her tea and tater salad are still the recipients of high praise. 

May is also the month I had my open heart surgery.  I can’t believe it’s been ten years since I took a very unplanned helicopter ride from the hospital I was having an outpatient test to Washington Hospital Center for double Coronary Artery Bypass Graph or as it’s commonly called, a ‘cabbage.’  That surgery on May 20, 2011 saved my life, and everything that got me onto that operating table still seems like a very surreal dream. 

Physically speaking, I healed quickly.  After the surgery, I came home and was surrounded by friends and family.  Then everyone left, and it was Memorial Day weekend.  Since Mom’s passing, Memorial Day had come to be one of my least fave holidays.  It was the holiday for making fun summer plans and kicking off summer.  Inevitably that weekend would sneak up on me, and I would find myself without plans.  No duffle bag packed ready to whisk off on a boating weekend or grabbing a short flight to the Cape for me.  Nope.  Even the lame family cookout that I had so often dragged myself to had dried up. Dad had a new lady friend, and as Facebook so glaringly showed me, everyone else on the planet was having the time of their lives parasailing, sipping margaritas, and showing off their six-pack abs alongside their dream dates.

So there I sat, alone again, and feeling incredibly sorry for myself.  My only weekend plan was a phone call with my therapist.  Part of my daily post-surgery recovery was a daily walk so I laced up and headed out my door and up Mt. Vernon Avenue.  My chest was still pretty raw from the surgery so a bra was out of the question, as was washing and blow drying my hair or putting on makeup.  I kept my head down as I passed happy, beautiful couples with strollers and dogs on leashes milling about.  I was on the loop back to my house when I spotted my ex-boyfriend who was on his way to Rolling Thunder—which had been on my bucket list.  You know that ex that kicks your chest in when you see him?  Yeah, that one.  I wanted to run and hide, but it was too late.  He spotted me. 

“Hey—what’s up?  Judy told me about your surgery.”  Insert uncomfortable pause.  “Did you tell them to add anything while they were in there?”  Really?  That was what he said to me.  Dude—no, sorry.  My life was busy flashing in front of my eyes so implants didn’t really register.  

I went home and sobbed like I had never sobbed before.  I’m talking primal wailing.  I can’t believe I didn’t bust my chest wide open again.  When I was done, I picked myself off the floor and made a promise to myself to use that surgery—and that excruciating moment—to move forward.  For whatever reason, God and a handful of very talented medical professionals had saved me.  My life was going to be different—had to be different.  Different meant moving forward because I could.  That lesson wasn’t lost on me.  And different in that I would only give my time, attention, and energy to people who deserved it.

It’s been ten years since that awful weekend.  The following year I lost one of my best friends to cancer and met the man I would marry.  The decade has been filled with many highs and a lot of lows, but I’m still here moving forward and carrying my memories close to my healing heart.   

This is my first Memorial Day without Dad—a veteran of the Korean War.  I am flooded with thoughts, feelings, and emotions, but trying to stay grounded in all the beautiful memories and the lessons both he and Mom instilled in me, mostly to be grateful for all that I have and give thanks to those who made it all possible, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

Celebrate Memorial Day with those you love!

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